In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Walking down the beautifully decorated Church aisle, a bride and groom prepare to step onto a new path. A life of communion that has been ordained by God from the beginning of creation. Two individuals coming together in Holy Matrimony is not just as a contract but, is a mysterious bond which will require continual dedication and openness, in order to produce a life of love. As the proverbial words teach us, “a wedding takes a day, a marriage takes a lifetime.” Especially for us, the blessed sacrament of marriage as Orthodox Christian’s is much deeper then the magnificent service, which takes place in the Church sanctuary.
Seeing the union of 1 man and 1 woman for us is directly example of our union with God. Just like a marriage is not defined as a contract or a moment, neither is our communion with God defined by a contract such as membership dues or certificates. Communion with God like a marriage takes a lifetime to develop. But what does our communion with God look like and can that communion be broken? The prophet Isaiah likens our union with God to that of a vineyard and the vine-dresser.
We are the seeds that have been carefully planted and tended to in the garden. “My beloved [God] had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines;…” (vv.1-2) God our creator gave us life, and blessed us by giving us all the tools we need to flourish and grow. If you’ve ever seen how grape vines grow, it is continual and outward but it takes time.
And so, God planted us so that we would grow and we too would begin bearing fruits. Our communion with God, through the Holy Church is likewise. We have been given the tools to grow and flourish. Within us has been planted our faith, which must bear fruits. Our growth and outreach is endless and the fruits we bear are like the sweet grapes. Yet, the prophet Isaiah continues, out of our hardness of heart we chose to bear thorns. (Isaiah 5:4; Matt. 19:8) We denied our groom, our master, our creator and we chose to divorce Him by our actions. We chose not to grow and bear fruits through our actions. This is where image of marriage and of the vineyard come together.
My dears, a communion blessed by God whether it is a physical marriage of man and wife or of us, the Church and Him must produce fruits. If we are dishonest, complacent, arrogant, aggressive, careless, lustful, etc. in our married life – then rather than sweet fruits, we produce thorns that begin to choke and kill our union. If we choose sexual immorality, defile our temples, seek not Gods love but rather look for self-satisfaction and fulfillment in other materialistic and temporal values – then rather than sweet fruits, we produce thorns that begin choking our communion with God. This image of vines and marriage perfectly illustrate our communion with God in the sense that God has created us for a purpose. God has fortified us and blessed us with the tools to flourish and bear sweet fruits. Yet, when we deny God just as when we deny our husband or wife of the love that unifies us – then we deny that purpose of the communion and we deny the blessings it brings, thus we begin to divorce and breaking of communion – which is what sin is. Sin is not a list of bad things we do. Rather, sin is breaking, divorcing and denying God’s communion. However, my dear brothers and sisters, if we live according to God commandments to love, to repent, to forgive, to protect, to create – then the fruits we bear will continually grow and spread throughout the world in the same way grape vines do.
This is done firstly, by coming to God and walking down the Church aisle just like a bride would – walking to our groom and receiving the Holy Communion – the body and blood of Christ Jesus because our communion is only through Christ Jesus. We, the Church, are the bride and Christ is the groom – who has come after us. Christ is the vine and we are the branches. In both these Biblical images we see that without Christ – we have no communion; without Christ we will remain fruitless. Therefore my dearly beloved brothers and sisters, we must examine ourselves, and the fruits, which we bear according to our faith. We must examine and test, who are we in communion with, Christ Jesus or something else?
Our communion with God, like the union of marriage, is not a piece of paper, nor is it a moment in time – it is a sacramental work, which takes a lifetime to flourish and strengthen. Like a marriage, like a vineyard, it does not take 1 day but continual work is necessary so that sweet fruits will be produced rather then thorns. For this to happen, God has already provided us with the tools and means to flourish.
We must choose to remain in communion with God and through our actions – to cover this world with His divine blessings. Doing so we will cover this world with love and compassion. Doing so, we will produce fruits, which will continue to produce more fruits and thereby, we will glorify Father, Son and Holy Spirit forever, Amen!